Softrock Lite 6.2
Adventures in Electronics and Radio
Elecraft K2 and K3 Transceivers
May 2007 Archive
Dayton - Booth 517
Clifton Laboratories will be at Dayton! I'm helping Larry,
N8LP, staff the Telepostinc booth and will bring a Z90 for those who might wish
to see one in person. I will also have a couple Z100s and a Z1502 TDR interface
for you to examine. Or, if you only wish to stop by and introduce yourself,
please do so.
Because of sales tax reasons, no sales will be completed
at Dayton. If you wish to purchase a Z100 (or a Z1502, for that matter) I will
give you payment information which you may follow. Or, if you wish to pay for a
Z100, I will accept cash or check, but your kit will be shipped when I return to
31 May 2007
My wife is off to Italy for a class on watercolor
painting, so I can hang around my basement lair even more than normal for the
next couple weeks.
I've made minor changes to the Z100 manual today and
posted it to the web, available by clicking
here or via the
Z100 page or the
Documents page. The current manual edition is version 1.2, dated 31 May
The change provides a useful trick to bending the short
LED lead provided by Bill, VK4SQï¿½bend the lead around the shank of a 0.100"
diameter drill shank. (Use a #38 drill [0.101" diameter], or a 3/32" drill. I
built a Z100 yesterday using the modeler's bar clamp suggested by W2PY and
VK4SQ's drill bit technique with excellent results.
I also have added an extra illustration to cutting the
gray film using a template made from the clear lens's protective mask. This
technique also works well.
I hope, over the next two weeks, to get a better handle on
the TMS320VC33 DSP and University Development kit. There are three elements to
learning a new micro-controller, and I'm having troubles with all three at the
- Learn how to use the programming tools. (Made more
difficult by TI not updating most tools for Windows 2000 or XP, and doing the
minimum necessary to make a few tools work for W2K/XP.)
- Understanding the target's instruction set and internal
organization, such as register assignments, internal hardware modules and the
like. Here, at least, TI has provided adequate documentation, but not first
- Understanding the hardware needed to make it run, and
the associated software interaction. Again an area where TI has not provided
adequate documentation or sample programs.
The difficulty is that I'm still at the point where I
can't always determine whether an error is due to 1, 2 or 3, thereby making it
difficult to correct.
I'm gradually making some sense out of it, but TI has made
the process far more difficult than it needs to be.
29 May 2007
I suppose it's a generational thing, but I find it
difficult to use on-line documentation for anything other than searching for
small information segments. I can't easily read hundreds of pages of
PDF-formatted text on the computer screen and get anything out of it. Hence, I
spent a good part of yesterday printing selected TMS320VC33 documentation,
totaling over 1500 pages. I ran the printouts by the local Kinko's printing shop
this morning for binding and this afternoon I've been going through the material
in a form that I can read and annotate, add Post-it notes to and generally find
more conducive to learning.
Along this line, I also ordered a hard copy of the
most recent version of Steve Smith's book, The Scientist and Engineer's Guide
to Digital Signal Processing. Dr. Smith makes a free PDF copy of the 1997
edition available at http://www.dspguide.com/
but I wanted a hard copy of the most recent (2002) version. His book, by the
way, is exceptionally clearly written, and I highly recommend it if you have
even a passing interest in DSP. Read the on-line copyï¿½you'll like it. He has
managed to make a topic normally encrusted with arcane mathematics
understandable to anyone who has passed high school algebra. The computer
routines are presented in BASIC and can easily be translated into your favorite
programming language. I've used his book, and Numerical Recipes in Pascal,
extensively when working on a Fast Fourier Transform for an audio spectrum
analyzer program running on an 18F4620 PIC (written in
Swordfish, of course.)
Numerical Recipes is still in print and runs about $75 from Amazon, with used
copies being available in the $15 range.
In going through the TMS320VC33 University Kit software
today, printed documentation in hand, I discovered that it does have a
rudimentary IDE for assembler programming. The IDE is part of the program
DSK3DW.EXE. I would not call it a full-featured IDE, or even an easy to use IDE,
but it does permit one to write assembler code in a window and then assemble,
load into the DSP and execute the code, whilst viewing memory and register
values, all from the IDE. The usual features, such as single stepping,
breakpoints, etc. are supported.
Errors do not place the cursor at the error location, and
the general interface is more than a bit clunky, but it seems usable.
At this point, I'm concentrating on the mechanics of how
one deals with the assembler and debugger as well as how the TMS320VC33 is
structured (memory, registers and the like) as well as its assembler instruction
set (over 100 instructions, compared with fewer than 40 for the 16F series PICs).
In addition, the printed circuit board has a number of jumpers that allow
different configurations to be selected.
And, more interestingly, the PCB has a "complex
programmable logic device." A CPLD is an integrated circuit with a collection of
logic elements, gates, counters, dividers and the like, which are soft-connected
internally, i.e., these elements may be assigned to input and output pins
and connected internally via software commands. These devices are intriguing
combinations of hardware and software, but for the purpose of learning how a DSP
is programmed, it adds another layer of complexity. TI's University DSK uses the
CPLD to allow the TMS320VC33's various pins to be connected to the outside world
and to other ICs on the board in different fashions, depending on the CPLD's
configuration program parameters. Fortunately, I can go a long way with the
default CPLD configuration.
Over the next two or three days, my goal is to write
an assembler program to initialize the on-board A/D and D/A converters and to
read the A/D value and echo that value to the D/A. This will run at 48 KHz
sample rate. Once that is running, I can be a bit more adventuresome, and try
filtering. There are sample programs that include this sort of echo function,
but I'm not quite at a point where I'm ready to chop down the sample programs.
27 May 2007
I've updated the
Z100 LED Tuning
Indicator manual and schematic.
Both are available via the Z100 page, or the
Documents page, or by clicking the links in the first
Changes to the Z100 manual are mostly in the area of
merging the two update sheets into the document. The update sheets cover options
for installing the LEDs and the gray film. After building a couple more
Z100s for purchasers, I've found a better way to install the film over the
entire lens, as described in the revised manual. If you have built a Z100 and
wish to modify how you have installed the film, but need another film strip,
drop me an E-mail and I'll send you an extra piece of film. Having the entire
lens covered with the film helps the Z100's apperance as the printed circuit
board edge and downward projecting leads have reduced visibility.
Texas Instruments TMS320VC33 DSP Development Kit
I've experimented the last few days with Texas
Instruments' $150 TMS320VC33 DSP Development Kit (the "University DSK"). The kit
is based on TI's TMS320VC33 DSP chip, running at 150 MHz clock, offering 75 MIPS
processing power. The kit includes stereo A/D and D/A converters, extra memory
and other features. The TMS320VC33 is a 32-bit floating point device, and is a
good fit of price versus performance for the application I have in mind. More
information on it is available at
My thought is that a new panadapter design would benefit
from adding a DSP behind a wide crystal filter, to provide multiple bandwidth
options, clearing the way for increased span width selection and a faster sweep.
(Faster sweeps also require a different display technology, and I'm looking at
that as well.)
To make a long story short, I'm disappointed with the
University DSK board, or, I should more correctly say, I'm disappointed with the
documentation and supporting software, as the board hardware seems to work well.
The University DSK's interface is via the parallel port. I
initially thought it would work with a USB-to-printer adapter, but that turns
out to be incorrect, as the associated software plays tricks with the parallel
port that are only supported with a genuine hardware parallel port. (Parallel
port transfer is used because it can be much faster than RS232, the only other
access method commonly available when the protocol was developed 20 years ago.)
The Gateway laptop computer I use with Swordfish and
Delphi to develop software has only USB ports, so I installed the DSK's software
on an older Gateway 500 MHz Pentium laptop with a genuine hardware parallel
port, and Windows 2000 operating system. Then I discovered that about two-thirds
of the demonstration programs supplied with the DSK will only run under
Windows 95 or Windows Me. This fact is stated in the DSK's "read me"
documentation and seems to be correct. Although these programs run in a DOS box,
there is apparently enough difference between W2K (and XP) and earlier versions
to break the code.
Although the DSK comes with software toolsï¿½assembler,
debugger, C compiler, linker and the likeï¿½the tools have mostly not been updated
since they were developed around 1995. Even by 1995 standards, however, the
tools are primitive, and are DOS command line programs. No editor, let alone an
"Integrated Development Environment" or IDE. Some automation is possible via DOS
batch files, but Borland offered a DOS-based IDE with its early Turbo Pascal
compilers in 1981-82 that is head and shoulders above TI's tools.
Some of the supplied tools are Windows 2K/XP compatible,
such as the Windows debugger, so in theory it is possible to develop code for
the University DSK board with the supplied software, but it will be a painfully
In order to program the University DSK with a modern
IDE-based compiler or assembler, it's necessary to purchase two additional
- A JTAG adapter. The standard way to program code into
TI's DSP is via JTAG, which is a four/five-pin interface added to a chip,
designed so that multiple chips on a board can have their JTAG lines daisy
chained together.This way, the "JTAG Emulator" need only connect to a single
JTAG port to have access to all chips on the PCB. The standardized JTAG
connector is a 14-pin header and the electronics that connects that 14-pin
header to your PC is called a JTAG Emulator. (It's far more than just a 14-pin
adapter, of course, as it must convert data from your PC into the format
expected by the PCB and also convert data received from the PCB to a format
expected by the software running on your PC.) JTAG emulators connect to the PC
via the parallel port, PCMCIA card slot, an ISA slot or, most recently, via
the USB, depending on the emulator model. JTAG emulators from a major supplier
are priced at about $1.5K for the least expensive unit, up to $4K. (I've found
Chinese knock-off JTAG emulators for as little as $300, but the story on the
street is that they are of questionable quality and may work with some chips
but not others.) [In addition to the parallel port interface that works with
the specially supplied software associated with the University DSK, the board
also contains the standard JTAG interface.]
- A copy of TI's Windows-based, IDE-style Code Composer
software, v 4.12. Runs about $1.5K, although it's available for $600 if you
have a university mailing address and thus qualify for TI's educational
I'm considering two alternatives.
- The EzDSP, which is similar to the University DSK in
that it runs the TMS320VC33 DSP chip, but with a built-in JTAG interface
(still uses parallel port access, but the JTAG emulator lets it communicate
with Code Composer). It comes with a restricted version of Windows-based Code
Composer v.4.12. (Restricted to being used with a PCB having the on-board JTAG.)
The EzDSP is available from Digital Spectrum for $519.
- TI's TMS320C6713 DSP Starter kit,
for $395. It includes on-board JTAG emulation and USB interface. It also comes
with a restricted version of Windows-based Code Composer. However this board
uses a more expensive DSP, running at 1 GHz clock. For the purposes I have in
mind, a TMS320C6713 is not an optimum selection.
More later in June as I will have a chance to use the
ExDSP board then.
23 May 2007
All Z91 owners have now been shipped a replacement panel
set (except for one Z91 that was shipped with the good panels, and for Z91's
sold with Z90 conversion kits.)
22 May 2007
I shipped the one assembled Z100 ordered at Dayton today.
That completes all orders I received at Dayton.
I've also added a new page, Dayton 2007, with a
few photos of the Hamvention and my comments.
21 May 2007
Made it back from Dayton. It's a 10 hour drive to Clifton,
and as much as I enjoyed the show and meeting about 20% of my domestic Z90/91
customers, it's good to be home. I'll post more Dayton photos tomorrow, perhaps
as a separate page.
I also wish to congratulate the guys running the "Four
Days in May" events. The banquet was exceptionally well done, and pre-drawing
the smaller prizes was an excellent idea. (I won a small prize, as a matter of
fact. A toroid assortment from Kits and Parts.
I donated a Z100 kit as a banquet prize as well.)
All the Z100 kits ordered at the show are now shipped. One
customer ordered an assembled Z100 and that won't be done until tomorrow.
I've sent notices with the tracking number to all Z100
customers for whom I could find an E-mail address, so if you have not received a
message from me, please drop me an E-mail and I'll give you the information.
Also, I've changed the Z100 manual supplement, based on
comments from two early builders. The kits shipped today have the updated
supplements. I plan to revise the manual over the next couple days, but a couple
of customers from VE3-land that I met at Dayton do not have these supplements.
Or, if you were the Z100 winner at the FDIM banquet, you do not have the most
recent supplement. If they will drop me an E-mail, I'll send the most
recent copies. Also, if you have not yet started building your kit, drop me a
message and request the most recent supplement. (The supplement applies to
building, not operating, so if your kit is already built, don't worry.)
The revised manual will be posted for downloading, when
finished, of course.
17 May 2007 PM
This morning was occupied by helping Larry set up the
Telepostinc table. This evening, I visited the QRP Amateur Radio Club,
International's Four Days in May "Meet the Authors" event. I had intended to
attend several presentations but did not get around to it.
Larry, N8LP, and his wife, Janet, in the middle of setting
up the table.
I found Wes Hayward, W7ZOI, at the Meet the Author's event
and had him sign my copy of his book, "Experimental Methods in RF Design."
If you have the slightest interest in building, or even
understanding how radio equipment works, buy his book.
Wes is on the left and I'm on the right.
Wes's co-author, Rick Campbell, KK7B, was also in
attendance and I have his signature as well.
missing the third author, Bob Larkin, W7PUA's, signature, however.
On the way back to the hotel, I ran into a back-pack mobile
operation. The photo does not do the antenna justice, unfortunately, as it is
a 15 ft whip mounted on the top of the pack frame.
17 May 2007 AM
I've begun receiving feedback from the first Z100 builders
and I've added a new page Z100 Builder's Notes
to make their comments available to other builders. You can reach this page by
clicking on the link above, or from the Z100 page. In order to keep the clutter
down, I'm not going to make it a top level page. (And, I've been
contemplating re-arranging the site to put all Z90/91 pages under a single
sub-page, and probably will do that over the next few weeks.)
16 May 2007
Made it to Dayton, total time just under 10 hours and
distance driven 501.3 miles according to my GPS receiver. The Homewood Suites
has wireless internet access and I've logged in successfully. The first
three hours were pleasant enough, at least to the extent driving on an
interstate highway is ever pleasant. Then the rain started as I passed through
the Appalachian mountains. It stopped around Wheeling WV and the rest of the
trip was overcast, but dry.
The long term weather forecast calls for dry weather
during the Hamvention, but on the cool side. I've been to Dayton under the old
schedule (in late April, if my memory is correct) when it was bitterly cold and
wet. Generally, the mid-May schedule has been decent, although often showery.
It's been five or six years since I've been to a Dayton
Hamvention and the area around the hotel (near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base)
has gone from open fields to houses, offices and hotels.
15 May 2007
I'm packing up for Dayton and will be out of easy E-mail
contact until Sunday evening, May 20th. At Dayton, I can be found at Booth 517,
or via cell phone. The cell phone number is Area Code 201, followed by 757 2121.
I'm staying at the Homewood Suites near Wright-Patterson
All Z100 kits have been shipped and the purchasers given
tracking/confirmation numbers, and one was delivered this afternoon.
I am bringing the laptop and digital camera, so you may
see a photo or two of Dayton posted here.
14 May 2007
This week will be occupied by the Dayton Hamvention. I'm
shipping all Z100 kits for which payment has been received this morning. (And
the last Z91 kit as well.) Next week, I'll pack and ship the replacement Z91
panel set, as well as any Z100 orders that might arrive while I'm at Dayton.
I've added a series of photos to the
Z100 page showing the hardware evolution from
my initial breadboarding to the finished printed circuit boards.
13 May 2007
All parts arrived on schedule, and all Z100 kits for which I have received
payment go out tomorrow. It took most of Thursday and Friday to sort through the
parts and individually pack them into kits. Since the Z100 is a simple kit, with
no surface mount components, the packaging is less elaborate than I used in the
Z90/91 kits. No stages, as the entire build takes about 2.5 hours.
I built three kits over the weekend, one to show at Dayton and two for
customers ordering completed units. All three went well and the final PCBs have
no errors. I found a few things to fix or expand in the instruction manual and
plan to do that later today. When finished, I'll post the revised PDF copy of
the manual as well.
Curious what 1700 LEDs look like? Here are 1,000 red, 500 yellow and 200
green LEDs ready to be put into kit packages. And, yes, I counted every one that
went into the kit bags. I won't guarantee that I didn't make an error, but I
tried my best.
10 May 2007
The only parts remaining for the Z100 kits are the printed
circuit boards, scheduled for delivery tomorrow. A large box of parts from
Mouser arrived today and I've spent the evening putting holes in enclosures. In
two hours and thirty minutes, I completed 11 enclosure sets, a bit under 15
minutes per enclosure.
I should meet my objective of shipping all Z100 kits for
which I have received orders on Monday. It's possible, of course, that I've
messed up the PCB, as I did make one small changes after the last prototype. If
so, it would be highly embarrassing, to say the least.
I've signed up for the QRP Amateur Radio Club
International banquet at Dayton and also will have a Z100 (and also a Z90, Z91
and Z1502) at the vendor's exhibit.
I've posted the other news of the dayï¿½the 3rd attempt at
Z91 panels arrived from Emachineshop today. I have not gone through all the box,
but I think there are enough good panels to meet all the Z91 needs. I'll begin
mailing out replacement Z91 panels the Monday after Dayton, or more likely, the
Tuesday after Dayton, as I'll need at least a day to recover from the 10 hour
drive between Clifton VA and Dayton OH.
09 May 2007
I've revised the Z100's Assembly and Operations
manual and posted the revised file. It may be read by clicking
here or via the
If you wish to order a Z100 via PayPal, you can
compute the amount due (the kit plus shipping) and send the amount via PayPal to
I've verified this link is working and receives PayPal payments.
One batch of Z100 parts arrived today, and I expect the
remainder to arrive tomorrow and Friday. Absent any last minute problems, this
will put the first kit shipments out Monday.
08 May 2007
Error in PayPal address
-- I had a typographical error in the PayPal link on my Z100 page from the time
it was posted until 0600 EST today. It's now fixed, but if you sent an order via
that address during that time, please cancel it and resubmit to the correct
It's now working and my apologies to anyone inconvenienced
by my error.
07 May 2007
At long last, the Z100 CW tuning aid kit page is available
by clicking here or via the navigation link at
The first Z100 production parts showed up this
afternoonï¿½the laser-cut clear Plexiglas front panel. Based on the shipment
schedule, all remaining parts should arrive by Thursday or Friday, so kits can
go out early next week--if there are any orders, of course!
06 May 2007
The Z100 parts orders are all placed and should arrive
over the next few days. I'll assemble a Z100 page tomorrow (promise), with
pricing and ordering information. Today, I built two simple fixtures to hold the
case for machining. I will mill the access holes in the case bottom and end
using the fixtures and my milling machine.
The Z100 manual is now about 50% longer than before, as
I've added many photos and drawings. Here's one example.
I've also used the most recent prototype Z100 for several CW
QSOs with my Elecraft K2 and found that it works very nicely. I can, in effect,
"zero beat" the received signal in the space of a couple seconds.
01 May 2007
As usual, the April Updates have been moved to an archive
page reachable via the links at the top of this page, or by clicking
I've spent most
of the day revising the Z100 manual and in the process found a small error in
the most recent prototype board. Not enough to justify a new prototype run, so
I'll fix the layout tomorrow and get the board order in.
Shown below is an assembled Rev 2 board. I made an error
assembling it and only put two yellow LEDs in. Normal configuration is two
center green LEDs, flanked by two yellow LEDs on each side and the remaining 18
LEDs are red.
All the reddish LEDs are deep red, although the camera flash makes some look
In case you have forgotten what a Z100 is, it's a
flexible, microcontroller based LED tuning aid for CW and RTTY and other digital
modes. Each LED indicates either 25 or 50 Hz depending on an option switch
setting. When the received audio equals the set frequency, the center LEDs
(green) illuminate. If you are tuned high, LEDs to the right of center are
illuminated, proprotional to how far off tune you are. Likewise for being low in
frequency; except in this case the LEDs illuminated are to the left of center.
The Z100 thus permits you to quickly and efficiently tune
a CW signal so that you are "zero beat" with the received frequency. And, unlike
simple tuning indicators that show GO/NO GO, the Z100 informs you how far off
frequency you are and in what direction you must tune for zero beat.
For RTTY and other digital mode operators, the Z100 will
let you tune a digital signal in correctly without having to keep one eye on
your computer's software frequency display and the other eye on your
Since this is a digital device, you can store 16 center
frequency settings, such as one for CW, one for low tone RTTY, one for high tone
RTTY, one for PSK, etc.
And, the Z100's firmware is open source. I'll put it up on
the Z100 page (when I get around to making the page, that is) and you can modify
it to your liking. You don't like 25 Hz per LED? Change it.
The Z100's firmware is small enough that Swordfish's free
compiler accommodates the code. And, since the 18F2620 PIC supplied with the
Z100 has bootloader software, you won't need a programmer. All that is required
is a USB-to-TTL logic level adapter cable. It costs $20 from Mouser.
Z100 on top of an Elecraft K2.
The Z100 cabinet does not have the screws in place,
hence the gap. Also, the Z100's front panel (clear acrylic (Plexiglas)) is not